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Marquette University Alumni Association

Law School Award Recipients

Alumnus of the Year Award


Elm Grove, Wis.

“Go to law school,” John’s CEO father told him. “The lawyers will be running everything in the future.”

And so, fresh out of business school at the University of Notre Dame, John took his father’s advice. “Marquette was truly a school for real lawyers, and being a corporate guy wanting a legal background was a bit countercultural,” he says. “But my Marquette Law School experience was invaluable to me in a corporate environment that has been ever more impacted by legal and regulatory challenges.”

John spent most of his career at Briggs & Stratton, where he started as general counsel, eventually becoming chairman, CEO and president. He co-authored the book The EVA Challenge: Implementing Value-Added Change in an Organization, which made’s Top Twenty Business Bestseller list.

“The hallmark of corporate excellence is delivering value to all important constituencies, which is totally consistent with the faith parable of the loaves and fishes,” he says. “All of that occurs only with superior leadership.”

He relishes the opportunity to help others become more value-driven. He sits on several corporate boards and has been active in numerous local organizations, including serving as chair of Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. He also guest lectures on mergers and acquisitions at the Law School and on corporate governance for Marquette’s College of Business Administration and has been a visiting scholar at Harvard Law School.

But John isn’t all business. A self-described “CEO rocker,” the guy who used to play guitar at St. Joan of Arc Chapel now sits on the board of directors for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland (he once played with Buddy Holly’s original band, the Crickets).

Said one nominator: “John’s guiding principle is to do the right thing no matter what roadblocks or difficulties you encounter along the way and to make sure you’re having fun while you’re doing it.”